Saturday, January 7, 2017

On the Conodoguinet

After several day trips on Lake Opossum, I was able to plan a trip down the Conodoguinet Creek. (con-o-dough-GWEN-it)  The Conodoguinet is a 104-mile tributary of the Susquehanna River in South Central Pennsylvania.  It is an outflow of Lake Opossum.  After the stream passes a Carlisle municipal water treatment plant with no portage trail possible, about 35 miles remain before joining the Susquehanna.  It is well described by its Native American name, meaning “a long way with many bends,” as well as a continual series of riffles and Class I rapids.  It has one 130-foot long covered bridge in Cumberland County, not in the section I would be paddling, that was built in 1870.  There were four other covered bridges that have all since been swept away in flood waters or replaced with concrete bridges.
I would do a 13.5 mile stretch that was all floatable except for the low-head dam that needed to be lined or portaged shortly after launching.  The water level was low, but in spite of bumping a few times, was a lot of fun.  At one point there is a series of five rapids as the creek passes under an Appalachian Trail bridge.  Several hikers lined the bridge railing with their cameras to document my demise, but all went well.

A small rock sculpture done in mid-stream likely to last only
until the next freshet.
The water was crystal clear and alive with fish.  The rock formations in the bottom were interesting, but the edges of the layered shale rocks looked razor sharp, suggesting the obvious desire for a helmet in higher water levels.  We followed several busy highways, including parts of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and I-81, as well as commercial sites.  Yet the creek appeared pristine and wild.  Except for an occasional siren or whining motorcycle, which were hardly audible, the only sounds were birds.  There were a lot of birds including heron, owls, orioles, egrets and others.  I even got a visit from a water snake.  Our daughter had been watching my SPOT track.  I hadn’t planned on an end point before I put in, and didn’t know where I would stop, but with only a couple hours of daylight left, she decided on the park that she felt would be an obvious take-out, and was sitting there waiting for me when I pulled up to the ramp that afternoon.  We have such a smart daughter.


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